United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION , 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jarrett Lamar Kirby (“Kirby”) seeks review,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), § 205(g) of the
Social Security Act, of a final decision of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), denying his application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). (Doc. 1). Kirby timely pursued and
exhausted his administrative remedies. This case is therefore
ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
undersigned has carefully considered the record and, for the
reasons stated below, the Commissioner’s decision is
Factual and Procedural History
filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on
April 20, 2015, alleging he became unable to work beginning
March 23, 2015. (Tr. 16, 166-69). The Agency initially denied
Kirby’s application and Kirby requested a hearing,
where he appeared on May 17, 2017. (Tr. 16, 96-122). After
the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
denied Kirby’s claim on June 29, 2017. (Tr. 13-40).
Kirby sought review by the Appeals Council, but it denied his
request on April 13, 2018. (Tr. 1-7). On that date, the
ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. On June 12, 2018, Kirby initiated this action.
(See doc. 1).
was sixty-one on his hearing date. (Tr. 109). Kirby has a
tenth-grade education and previous work as a forklift
operator and truck driver. (Tr. 109, 116).
Standard of Review 
court’s review of the Commissioner’s decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of this Court is to
determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This Court must
“scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the
decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial
evidence.” Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d
1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. It is “more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance.” Id.
Court must uphold factual findings supported by substantial
evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ’s legal
conclusions de novo because no presumption of
validity attaches to the ALJ’s determination of the
proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v.
Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
court finds an error in the ALJ’s application of the
law, or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient
reasoning for determining the proper legal analysis has been
conducted, it must reverse the ALJ’s decision.
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her
entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the
Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define
“disabled” as “the inability to do any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To
establish entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant must
provide evidence of a “physical or mental
impairment” which “must result from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be
shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
Regulations provide a five-step process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant’s impairment meets or equals
an impairment listed by the [Commissioner];
(4) whether the claimant can perform his or her past work;
(5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in
the national economy.
Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing to the formerly applicable C.F.R. section),
overruled on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189
F.3d 561, 562-63 (7th Cir. 1999); accord McDaniel v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). “Once
the claimant has satisfied steps One and Two, she will
automatically be found disabled if she suffers from a listed
impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment
but cannot perform her work, the burden shifts to the
[Commissioner] to show that the claimant can perform some
other job.” Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995).
The Commissioner must further show such work exists in the
national economy in significant numbers. Id.
Findings of the Administrative Law Judge
consideration of the entire record and application of the
sequential evaluation process, the ALJ made the following
One, the ALJ found Kirby met the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2019 and had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity after his alleged
onset date of March 23, 2015. (Tr. 19). At Step Two, the ALJ
found Kirby has the following severe impairments: diabetes
mellitus, hypertension, obesity, anxiety disorder, depressive
disorder, panic disorder, and borderline intellectual
functioning. (Tr. 19). At Step Three, the ALJ found Kirby did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 24).
proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined Kirby’s
residual functioning capacity (“RFC”), which is
the most a claimant can do despite his impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). The ALJ
determined that, through his date last insured
(“DLI”), Kirby had the RFC
to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c)
except with no driving; no unrestricted heights; no foot
control operation, and no climbing. He should have only
occasional contact with the general public and be restricted
to simple, repetitive, non-complex tasks.
Four, the ALJ determined that, through the DLI, Kirby was
unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 34). At Step
Five, the ALJ found that, based on Kirby’s age,
education, work experience, and RFC, jobs exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Kirby could
perform. (Tr. 34-35). Therefore, the ALJ determined Kirby has
not been under a disability and denied his claim. (Tr. 36).
the court may only reverse a finding of the Commissioner if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or if improper
legal standards were applied, “[t]his does not relieve
the court of its responsibility to scrutinize the record in
its entirety to ascertain whether substantial evidence
supports each essential administrative finding.”
Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir.
1982) (citing Strickland v. Harris, 615 F.2d 1103,
1106 (5th Cir. 1980)). The court, however, “abstains
from reweighing the evidence or substituting its own judgment
for that of the [Commissioner].” Id. (citation
raises six arguments in support of reversal and/or remand:
(1) the ALJ inappropriately rejected opinion evidence, (doc.
10 at 19-24); (2) the decision was tainted by the ALJ’s
history of “substituting his opinion for the opinion of
examining medical experts, (id. at 25-32); (3) the
ALJ erred by failing to make a credibility finding regarding
Kirby, (id. at 32-38); (4) the ALJ improperly failed
to apply Grid Rules 201.02 and 202.02, which would have
directed a finding of disabled, (id. at 38-40); (5)
the ALJ failed to consider the side effects of Kirby’s
medications, (id. at 40-42); and (6) the ALJ’s
decision “was not based on substantial evidence,
” which is substantively an attack on the ALJ’s
reliance on vocational examiner (“VE”) testimony,
(id. at 42-45). Each is discussed separately below.
The ALJ Did Not Err in ...